FTC Commissioner Julie Brill Steps Down

Federal Trade Commissioner Julie Brill, one of the agency's most vocal privacy advocates, is leaving the commission at the end of the month.

She will go to the law firm Hogan Lovells, where she will serve as co-director of the privacy and cybersecurity practice.

“Commissioner Brill has been an unwavering advocate for consumers and competition during her six-year tenure at the Federal Trade Commission,” FTC Chairwoman Edith Ramirez said in a statement. “Commissioner Brill’s expertise in consumer protection, privacy, and antitrust has been an asset to the agency, and we are sorry to see her leave."

During her tenure at the FTC, Brill repeatedlyurged ad companies to give consumers more control over the collection of data about them.

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As recently as last September, she criticized the online ad industry for failing to move forward with a do-not-track mechanism.

"In 2010, we called for the establishment of a universal “Do Not Track” tool where consumers could opt out of cross-site data collection in their browsers," Brill stated in a speech delivered at the annual conference of the Better Business Bureau's National Advertising Division. "And yet, here we are, in 2015, and consumers’ still do not have an adequate means to opt-out of data collection. It is more clear than ever that self-regulation needs to keep up with the times: after all these years, consumers still don’t understand what’s happening with their personal information, and they continue to struggle to control targeted advertising and data collection."

In that same speech, she also urged ad companies to close a "loophole in the industry rules" that allows companies to send targeted ads that relate to sensitive health conditions.

At Hogan Lovells, Brill will succeed Christopher Wolf, who will transition to "senior status" at the firm. Wolf also serves as president of the board of the think tank Future of Privacy Forum.

Brill, who joined the FTC in 2010, previously worked for the North Carolina Department of Justice and the Vermont Attorney General's office.

Her departure leaves the agency with just three commissioners.

Privacy advocate Jeff Chester, executive director of the Center for Digital Democracy, describes Brill in an email to MediaPost as "an extraordinary FTC commissioner who has played an important role supporting the strongest possible consumer protection actions by the agency."

He adds she will face a "formidable task as she tries to balance what she knows are industry-wide practices that undermine privacy with the intense commercial pressures to financially harvest our data."

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